Lambourn’s Muir announces decision to retire dual Group 1 hero Pyledriver to stud
Lambourn trainer William Muir announced that dual Group 1 winner Pyledriver will be retired to stud following a recurrence of a suspensory ligament injury.
The six-year-old shot to stardom when he won the 2021 Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs, Muir and co-trainer Chris Grassick’s first Group 1 triumph.
Then, in July of last year, Pyledriver saw off a high class field to land the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes despite setting off as an 18/1 outsider.
However, disaster struck when the Linkslade star suffered a long-term injury to his off-fore, which saw him sidelined for 11 months.
The La Pyle-owned sensation returned from his 336-day lay-off to win the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and most recently was fifth when defending his King George crown at the end of July.
He had been set to feature in last weekend’s Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton Park before a potential crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s richest Flat race, next month.
Despite looking strong on the gallops, Muir and Grassick became concerned when Pyledriver returned to their Lambourn yard and, after consulting with the vet, made the decision to call time on the two-time Group 1 hero’s glittering career.
In total, the son of Harbour Watch won eight of his 20 starts, with five of his victories coming at Group level, earning more than £2 million in prize money.
Muir and Grassick will now begin searching for a suitable stud for Pyledriver, who is set to embark on a new chapter in his career.
“He worked superb but when he came back he was a little bit sore in the same place where he got that setback in the suspensory ligament before,” Muir told The Racing Post.
“I think there’s something which is niggling and it’s important we don’t do anything because we have to play the game properly.
“He’s not lame and he cantered on Monday, but we had a meeting and all made the decision.
“This horse has been so good to us and I don’t want to put him through something that could go wrong.”
Pyledriver had looked set for another tilt at top level glory and was priced at 25/1 for the Prix de l’Arc in Paris, having surprised even Muir when he won on his return at Ascot following his long-term absence.
Muir said: “We did everything we could and when we went back to Royal Ascot, we didn’t have a run for ages because we’d been minding him all the way up to that day.
“To go and do what he did was unbelievable.
“It doesn’t matter how long I train for, I don’t think I’ll ever see a horse do what he did considering the short amount of work he did before it.”
Despite taking their time with Pyledriver, who only ran once more after his return in June, Muir and Grassick were so keen to protect their stable star that even some relatively minor soreness in and around the area of the ligament led the trainers and connections to make the decision to retire the Linklade legend.
“On the gallops on Friday he was in tip-top form,” Muir said.
“He was fresh, he was well and he was absolutely bouncing – you couldn’t see anything better.
“If he was 100 per cent sound and was bucking and kicking, then we’d go to Kempton on Saturday and I would’ve said that it’d take a very good horse to beat him.
“However, if he went there and got an injury and tore the ligament or put more pressure on the other leg and broke it, then I’d walk away from everything.
“I wouldn’t be able to put up with it, so I think this is the right decision.
“He’s been such a fantastic horse for us all, but we have to do what is right for him.
“We’re in this game because we love the horses and I don’t want to see horses injured.”
Pyledriver’s pluck, charm and undeniable class has made him not only a firm favourite with Muir, Grassick and his Salisbury-based backers, but also with the wider racing world.
Muir said: “I think he’s loved by a lot of people around the country, whether that’s punters or other people in racing.
“The owners have been fantastic from day one at Salisbury and I couldn’t speak more highly of them or my staff.
“The boys that look after him will be devastated because he’s a big part of the yard.
“He needs to go out at the right time and this is the right time.
“It would be such a shame if he were to go out after something had gone completely wrong or, worse still, loss of life.
“I could keep running him because he’s in fantastic form, but my instincts are telling me this is the time to retire him.
“I’ll always do what’s right for every horse, but Pyledriver has been so special throughout our career.
“We’ve now got to find another one and I’ve got to find him a stallion’s job – it’s onwards and upwards.”